Thursday, October 9, 2014

Point Reyes: Blackbird Hype, Vague Runts, Vireo Discomfort

"I've been very uncomfortable with my vireos" is a line uttered often among California birders...and who can blame them? Birders misidentify them on the regular. Hell, someone just erroneously claimed a Red-eyed Vireo the other day down in Santa Barbara, and was forced (by the Bird Police, no doubt) to make a very public and very bulky apology. Shortly afterward, another Santa Barbara birder posted photos of a "Yellow-green Vireo" that was clearly a Warbling Vireo. Classic. Luckily this Philadelphia Vireo was identified with prowess and was easily the Bird of The Day.

Ahhh, fall. It's been a good one. Vague Runts abound, and My Grunts have been plentiful. Of course, if you live in the bay area, it is to Point Reyes you must go in September and October (and even November). As the San Francisco Giants thrive in October (even years), Vague Runts thrive in the cypress patches of the outer point in autumn. And so three nerds, in a storm of spoonerisms (delta smelt=smelta delt) and bad Star Wars jokes, recently birded the point. It was not one of those days that become birding legend, but it was a good day...although the Cape Mays stung a bit.  We dipped on not one but two Cape May Warblers, which I feel is an impressive feat. Luckily, Philadelphia Vireo made everything did Chestnut-sided Warbler, 41 Black-vented Shearwaters, and the birds you will see below.

I know it's not a crush, and for that I apologize. But I am very comfortable with my vireos. I really like Philadelphia Vireos, and have been lucky to see a lot of them. They are the cutest vireo, after all, and have cerulean legs for style points.

I decided that I would start making an effort to photograph Tricolored Blackbirds this year. Here is a female. Look how horrifically drab and wonderful she is.

Unlike Philadelphia Vireos, I can understand that this is a tough bird to identify, but with some practice it can be done without inducing . She has no warm tones in her plumage and little contrast anywhere. 

As I have mentioned in the past, Point Reyes has hella Tricolored Blackbirds. This flock is pretty much all Tricolored. If you are in the bay area in the fall and want to meet this bird, head out to the point or Moonglow Dairy in Monterey County. You will be rewarded, although some birding pundits claim they are overrated.

You show me a cow, and I will show you a Tricolored Blackbird. This was a fun pile of birds, despite their critics. They whole heap of them sound like a cacophany of Red-wingeds with pneumonia.

On this day, there were Blackpoll Warblers galore. We had 6 that day, which is by far my best one day total for the species in California. Other than Yellow Warblers, it was the most abundant warbler species that day. Isn't that fucked up? Birding is weird.

Mmmmmmmmmmm eastern drabness.

Here's a different one. They're not flashy this time of year, but they are Good, in the moral sense of the word.

Have I even posted Barn Owl pictures on BB&B before? If I haven't, it's not for lack of interest. They may be common but they are one of the best-looking owls.

Oh that's right...a Barn Owl has graced our hallowed halls before. In fact, it is one of the best Barn Owl pictures I have ever seen...feel free to take a look at the carnage.

According to one birder, this White-winged Dove I found flying past the Fish Docks parking lot was the best bird of the day out on the point, especially in comparison to Cape May Warblers. I heartily disagree with this viewpoint; having seen both species on the point in the past, I can objectively say that I would gladly look at 500 Cape May Warblers before I looked at another freaking White-winged Dove, anywhere. 

Being the #7 U.S. birder, it is important to strike a balance between vagrant-lust and robin-stroking...but no one should ever overdo the robin-stroking. Here is a Double-crested Cormorant. I like it's cankles. I will say nothing more.

Officer Searcy treasures nature. Look at the looking. The treasuring.

Officer Searcy gets credit for finding this creature. He identified it by screaming and pointing "VOLE! VOLE! VOLE!". Obviously it is not a vole, but I didn't have the heart to tell him. He had just gotten off the Farallones, where people tend to forget things about the mainland. He also misidentified a deer. That's why he is not in the Mammal Police.


  1. sick pocket gopher. love those vireo legs.

    1. actually I thought it was pretty healthy HAHAHAHAHA

  2. Yeah wow, those vireo legs are nuts. I wonder about the Mammal Police... Are they crazier than the Bird Police? Do they have competing bowling leagues?

    1. No one is crazier than the bird police

    2. The Mammal Police do have their batshit triggers, though. Such as when people post trail cam photos of house cats that they and their friends are convinced are cougars or black Florida panthers. "I know it's far, fuzzy and black & white, but…"

      And not bowling - bocce. At night with glow in the dark balls.

  3. California seems to be the Police State all the right-wing talk show people claim after all, but damn it all if the birds don't compensate.

    Sweet post, like how you just threw some BAOW crushes in there at the end like it ain't no big thing.

  4. Laurence Butler, beware! The birding police are coming for you. There's no such thing as a "BAOW". :)

  5. "...cerulean legs for style points" = best line in this post.

  6. I never saw this. Now I have seen it. I just deleted my cover letter that I was about to send to a stoat job in the UK.